Former Zimbabwean Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko has said he is afraid of being abducted and poisoned by state agents.
The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) has indicated that it wants to drag Mphoko to court for alleged abuse of office during the time when he and current president Emmerson Mnangagwa were the country’s co-vice presidents, serving under former president Robert Mugabe.
Mphoko is accused of having stormed Avondale police station in Harare and ordered the release of two suspects were facing corruption allegations in July 2016. The pair was believed to have been close to former First Lady, Grace Mugabe.
The two officials, then-Zimbabwe National Road Authority acting chief executive Moses Juma and non-executive director Davison Norupiri, had been arrested by ZACC on allegations of defrauding the parastatal of US$1.3-million.
Last year, Juma was sentenced to 30 months in jail for criminal abuse of office.
In the last days of Mugabe’s rule, relations between Mphoko and Mnangagwa became strained, as the latter was believed to be in a Zanu-PF faction that pushed for Grace Mugabe to succeed Mugabe ahead of Mnangagwa.
Mphoko was among top government officials who fled the country when it became obvious that Mnangagwa was succeeding in seizing power with the help of the army. He came back to the country months later after the intervention of former president of Botswana, Ian Khama.
Last Friday, ZACC officials raided Mphoko’s home in Bulawayo but his family chased them away, saying they did not have a warrant.
On Sunday, when Mphoko arrived at the Bulawayo magistrates court and was told by anti-corruption officials to first go to Bulawayo central police station, he vanished.
In an interview on Sunday, Mphoko’s lawyer Zibusiso Ncube said his client now fears for his life. “My client fears for his life and he believes that people are out to abduct him and cause danger to his life by injecting him with a lethal poison. So he is saying he wants to appear before a court and answer whatever he has to answer before the court,” Ncube said.
He said ZACC officials had said Mphoko was supposed to come to court for remand on Monday in order to be given a trial date in Harare, only for them to change goal-posts and say he must go to the police.
“They indicated to us that there was a change of plan and that we were now supposed to go to the Bulawayo central police station, which was a betrayal of sincerity. That is when my client indicated to me that these guys wanted to abduct him, he said they just wanted him out of my sight so that they inject him with a lethal injection,” he said.
After ZACC officials were turned away from Mphoko’s house, the anti-graft watchdog said he would be held accountable.
“It is sad that the former VP refused to collaborate with the enforcement officers. Unfortunately, he and those around him believe that they are above the law…no one is above the law.
“We will ensure that the long arm of the law visits him in a manner that he understands and that he answers for his actions ASAP [as soon as possible],” ZACC told state media.
On Sunday, the ZACC said that Mphoko is considered to be a fugitive from the law.
Weeks before Mugabe was toppled, Mphoko and Mnangagwa’s differences played out in the public arena, highlighting the power struggles in Zanu-PF at that time. At one point, Mphoko issued a statement saying Mnangagwa had lied when he claimed he had served poisoned ice-cream during a Zanu-PF rally in Gwanda.
Mnangagwa subsequently issued a statement saying Mphoko’s account was littered with “subjective falsehoods, mischievous perceptions and malicious innuendoes” written in a language and tone which is disrespectful and contemptuous “to my person and indeed to the office I occupy, that of Vice-President of the Republic of Zimbabwe and the party ZANU-PF.”
He also said Mphoko’s statement was bent on causing alarm, disunity and despondency.
“I have an impeccable history of unflinching loyalty to the party and His Excellency, the President, Comrade RG Mugabe and have never acted in a manner that undermines his authority or the stability of Zimbabwe,” Mnangagwa said at the time.
“During the briefing with His Excellency, the President, Comrade RG Mugabe, the medical doctors who attended to me ruled out food poisoning, but confirmed that indeed poisoning had occurred and that investigations were still in progress. They, however, established that poisoning had indeed occurred and investigations were in progress.”